The 50 Best Mobile Games of the 2010s

Games Lists Best of the Decade
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The 50 Best Mobile Games of the 2010s

Mobile games weren’t born this decade, but this was still the mobile decade. The genre came into its own over the last ten years, both creatively and commercially, with the walls between mobile games and the traditional gaming market collapsing as time wore on. As console games became more and more beholden to digital distribution, and smartphones became both omnipresent and more powerful, it became harder to draw a distinction between the two. Sometimes that could result in creative dead ends—early this decade some designers spent too much time showing what mobile games could do, rather than exploring and building on what they should do. The best mobile games combine the pick-up-and-play ease of smartphones with elegant design and the kind of magnetic gameplay loop that keeps you enthralled far longer than you ever expected. Yes, too much of this market is underpinned with microtransactions and free-to-play shenanigans, but the recently launched Apple Arcade subscription service will hopefully minimize those exploitative tactics. We’re not here to point out what’s wrong with mobile games, though, but to highlight the games that made this decade the artistic and commercial boom period that it was for mobile games. Here are Paste’s picks for the best mobile games of the 2010s.

50. ELOH

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ELOH’s another gorgeous puzzle game perfectly calibrated for touchscreens. The goal is to shift blocks into the right position to bounce balls towards the target. Each ball makes a sound when it hits a block, creating a steady rhythm once everything’s in the right place. It has everything I’m looking for in a mobile game: a simple concept that makes smart use of the touchscreen, action that grows increasingly more complicated, and charming art and music. And on that last point, ELOH’s painted artwork makes it one of the most beautiful games I’ve seen in years.—Garrett Martin


49. 10000000

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At this point, match-3 games are like zombie games: There’d better be a damned good hook if you want me to pay attention. Fortunately, the strange hybrid 10000000 has several. A fusion of the match-3, RPG and endless runner genres, 10000000 employs a surprisingly effective combination of common mechanics to keep players coming back.—J.P. Grant



48. HQ Trivia

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HQ Trivia might not seem much like any other game on this list, but this live interactive trivia game actually realizes one of the ideals of mobile game more successfully than almost anything else: it unites large swaths of humanity from across the nation in simultaneous play. Sure, the draw of maybe winning like two and a half bucks is a major reason why HQ has been successful, but it’s still a well-constructed trivia game, rarely resorting to trick questions or intentionally trying to confuse the player.—Garrett Martin


47. Dear Reader

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This Apple Arcade release turns public domain works from the literary canon into a suite of word games and puzzles, asking players to predict the next word in an Emily Dickinson poem, or find the misspelled words in a page from Heart of Darkness. It’s compulsively playable even if you aren’t an editor for a living, and will also expose you to some of the great works of Western literature.—Garrett Martin



46. Typeshift

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Another word game, Zach Gage’s Typeshift uses the Merriam-Webster dictionary to build a finger-controlled riff on Boggle. You’ll slide rows of letters up and down in order to make as many words as possible before the time runs out. It’s the kind of game that you’ll never feel guilty about pouring hours into, because you’ll probably be picking up new words the whole time.—Garrett Martin


45. Waking Mars

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Thousands of videogames ask you to take life, but very few ask you to create it. Waking Mars is one of the rare creatures in the second camp. It’s also the rare mobile game that excels in all phases of its execution, elegantly integrating story, mechanics and aesthetics. As the story quietly unfolds—as you, well, wake Mars—you may find yourself more emotionally invested than you’d thought. That’s the thing about making life instead of taking it: eventually, you remember how to care.—J.P. Grant



44. Ziggurat

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The one-finger shoot-‘em-up Ziggurat‘s unique greatness only becomes clear once you get sort of good at it. Like most good iOS games, it’s defined by an extremely focused shallowness, targeted entirely towards getting you to dive back in. Keeping the action set minimal while providing a wide variety of gameplay situations forces the player to get creative. Even in a short burst of play, it’s pretty easy to discover a permutation of the action that had previously gone unnoticed. Ziggurat has a great knack for creating itches and then permitting you to scratch them, if you can.—Joe Bernardi


43. Cinco Paus

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Michael Brough’s game from late 2017 is once again built around chance and skill, with ever-changing levels and tools preventing you from relying on memorization and familiarity. If you’re familiar with Brough’s previous games 868-HACK and Imbroglio, you already sort of know what to expect. Brough’s been one of the most talented and consistent mobile game designers for years, and he continues his streak with Cinco Paus.—Garrett Martin



42. Flappy Bird

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So it ripped off Super Mario art assets. So its massive success, which was weirdly delayed over a year after its release, might’ve been spawned through some digital shenanigans. Flappy Bird wouldn’t have become the short-lived smash that it was if it wasn’t doing something right at its core, and even though its difficulty could be capricious and unforgiving, it was still capable of sinking its hooks deep into the player’s brain and spurring them on to one more try, again and again and again.—Garrett Martin


41. SPL-T

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Simogo’s SPL-T is a minimalist revelation of a puzzle game. It’s a bizarre combination of Super Puzzle FighterSPL-T is a falling-block game of sorts, one in which some puzzle pieces have countdown-timers so that they eventually ‘zero out’ and vanish—crossed with that grade-school game where you try to see if you can fold a sheet of paper in half more than eight times. It’s hard to describe, admittedly, because there’s absolutely nothing else like it. It’s also tough to get the hang of at first, just because it totally requires the player to think in such different ways spatially… but once you ‘get’ it, you’ll be hooked.—Jenn Frank

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